His hands fail to wipe his tears

Worst is not over yet for this 26/11 victim. An unnoticed blood clot has made Shyamsunder Chowdhury paralysed now.

September 13, 2010 02:42 am | Updated 03:11 am IST - Mumbai

Shyamsunder Chowdhury with his wife Baby. Photo: Rahi Gaikwad

Shyamsunder Chowdhury with his wife Baby. Photo: Rahi Gaikwad

Within half-an-hour, 36-year-old Shyamsunder Chowdhury cried twice — the only way he can express himself, besides painful groans. And each time, his family lovingly wiped his tears.

Till six months ago, Mr. Chowdhury — a victim of the November 28, 2008 multiple terror strike in Mumbai — had been working and earning for his family of six. But the brutality of the attack has afflicted him once again — with more vengeance than before.

“The right side of his brain has stopped functioning, leaving him paralysed. The shrapnel wounds he received during the attack have festered. Doctors say the infection is spreading to the left side of his brain, and that there are very slim chances of recovery,” Baby, Mr. Chowdhury's wife, told The Hindu .

Within a fortnight of the attack, Mr. Chowdhury had been well on the path of recovery. A few scars on his shaved head and an arm supported in splint were the only visible signs of injury. He had narrated his experience to The Hindu (on December 15, 2008) of the blast that ripped a taxi in Vile Parle. A year later, he even deposed before the special sessions court trying the 26/11 case.

Then, events took an unexpected turn for the family. “This January, he started to stutter. He would complain his hands were going weak and had pins and needles sensation. His speech started to become incoherent. We did an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] and detected an old injury,” she said.

In May, he was admitted to a civic hospital. “The doctors said there was a blood clot in the brain and pressure on a nerve. He underwent physiotherapy and speech therapy. Suddenly, one day he developed fits and was paralysed.” Now, Mr. Chowdhury is a picture of helplessness as he stares around blankly, his emaciated limbs twisted into inaction. His bodily functions and feeding are carried out by way of pipes attached to his body.

“He cries when he is hungry, when we talk about the children or if he senses we are talking about him. That means he understands what's going on,” said Ms. Chowdhury.

The Chowdhurys live in a small room in a Mumbai slum. Due to high medical expenses coupled with loss of income, the family is finding it difficult to stay afloat.

“We are selling our gold. I also borrow money from the neighbours. My father-in-law has a kidney ailment and is undergoing dialysis. The situation at home is affecting my children's studies. My life is ruined,” said the homemaker.

Mr. Chowdhury's liquid diet alone squeezes the family's meagre means. “He needs to be given mashed food. Roti and rice have to be blended in a mixer; apples, bananas and biscuits are soaked and mashed in milk. Apples cost Rs.140 a kg. The doctors have told us to buy a water bed. That costs Rs.6,000. Where do I get the money from?”

Ms. Chowdhury is desperate to find employment. To make matters worse, she has had to deal with the apathy of her husband's bosses at a biscuit factory.

“For the past several months, no one from the factory has come to ask why he hasn't been attending work. When I went to ask for gratuity and other payments for his 12 years of service, they told me he had taken a loan of Rs.60,000. I did not know he had a loan. But what do I do? It's impossible for me to repay it. They made me go from pillar to post in vain. One of the staff assured he would take up my case up with the management, but nothing has happened. I want the company to give [my husband's] entitlements.”

The Taj Group, which provided relief to the victims of the attack, has been funding the education of the Chowdhurys' two school-going children. Ms. Chowdhury said the Taj had proposed a 15-day vocational training course for her. Vile Parle MLA Krishna Hegde has written to her husband's employers asking them to provide compensation to the family and a job to Ms. Chowdhury on humanitarian grounds.

All efforts have drawn a blank. The family members wipe Mr. Chowdhury's tears, but there's none to wipe theirs.

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